Mom's Clothes

What do you want, Dad asked,

And I said, Mom’s clothes.

Also the family mementos

That Mom treasured for their stories.

But first, Mom’s clothes.

Right now I am wearing

Her Bean flannel shirt

With a quilted flannel lining.

(This is pre-fleece Bean.)

There is a Bic lighter

In the left breast pocket.

You put it there, Mom, after lighting

A Marlboro red

And sitting outside in the garden

With a nice, hot cup of coffee

To ponder the next thing to do

And the next and the next

On those days you balanced raising

Your grandsons

With caring for your husband

And loving those who asked for nothing.

Always, you offered a nice, hot cup of coffee,

A laugh about something,

And a memory.  

Always, you had something to tell,

Even alone outside on the deck

In flannel.

For two years I have kept the shirt

With the lighter in the pocket

On a hanger in my closet,

A guardian of time.  

I want it that way.

I want to return to the moment

You lived before you knew

Cancer had claimed your lungs,

When deadheading roses

And mulching the peonies

And weed-whacking along the gardens

And trying out new recipes

And heating chicken nuggets for your grandsons

Marked a day well spent.

I want that day before the ping

Of the oxygen machine

Made you a captive audience

And became the metronome of your life,

Measuring the distance between your time with us and death.

I wear this shirt to say Mom lived,

Mom loved, Mom gave everything

To her family.

I write this that her gift

Might be real now,

That the feel of the cold plastic

Of the Bic lighter 

In the left breast pocket

Might say

Know the pain I bury for you–

Things you will never know because I will not hurt you– 

The pain that takes my breath away

Even as I give you roses

And make you lunch.

Know your mother.

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